Recent Comments

Leanne Weston

Hi Michael

Yes, the knowing and not knowing or seeing and not seeing definitely part of why it works so well. Thanks for your comment and for bringing Luhrmann’s ad into this discussion, it has a very similar feeling. We tend to think of our cinematic experiences as personal ones rather than shared ones – even though we’re aware of its shared nature.

Since I’m not a music theorist or a musician, I’d be really interested if this style of cover is arranged/composed in a specific way for the very effect we’re discussing. The use of ‘slowed down’ covers is a commonplace trailer trick. Of course, as this clip illustrates, the origin of it comes in foreign-language trailers to bridge the language barrier for global distribution, but I think it’s become equally commonplace in contemporary trailers for all films. I think this practice also opens up some interesting ideas about legitimating certain kinds of music and making them ‘cool’ through covering them. Just like the Sonic Youth interpretation, I think the Grease cover in the Chanel add is a great example of this trend. It certainly forces us to reconsider the hierarchies of a value within music and the importance given to some genres of music over others within popular culture and criticism.

Michael Lawrence

What an interesting trajectory — from ironic, to iconic, to earnest anthem. Now I’m trying to think of other examples that do something similar….

What immediately comes to mind are instances in movies/musicals of a lighthearted song moving from carefree to grave when repeated in a different moment of a narrative. (And of course we could find the same sort of device in, say, opera). I’m thinking of the two incarnations of “The Glory of Love” that bookend the movie Beaches, or the two versions of “I’ll Cover You” in Rent. In each of these instances, an originally optimistic, forward-looking song becomes something mournful after a death. But these don’t capture the same sense of the sarcastic becoming the sincere that Zack finds in Bowie.

(I also have to note, since I just commented about Baz Luhrmann in response to Leanne’s post, that ‘Heroes’ got the Baz treatment in Moulin Rouge’s Elephant Love Medley…. )

Michael Lawrence

One of the creepy, haunting things about encountering a ghost (I gather) is that you’re not sure if it’s really there or not. Are you imagining it? Can anyone else see it? In other words: are you the only member of its audience? Aaron and Leanne’s exchange suggests that this very ambiguity is central to the haunting — we don’t have to decide if the audience does or does not recognize the source of the song; the fact is that some folks will, some will not, and many will fall somewhere in between. I can imagine someone sitting in a theater, seeing this trailer, and immediately recognizing the song — only then to realize that the person next to her didn’t share the moment of recognition. Before she has time to process, the trailer has moved on, and the song has disappeared.

This particularly haunting recontextualization is reminding me for some reason of the Chanel No 5 ad directed by Baz Luhrmann, featuring Lo-Fang’s eerie cover of “You’re The One That I Want” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8asRWe5XNw8 (The original is of course from Grease https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oKPYe53h78) Luhrmann does this kind of thing all the time, but I found this example especially haunting. As the song says: ‘I got chills. They’re multiplying.’

Leanne Weston

Hi Zack

This is such a great choice. I’m so glad someone decided to post about David Bowie. I really like how you framed the different performances of the song and the historical contexts that occur each time its recontextualised. I also think that in light of his passing, the cultural moment of the performance takes on a really interesting and different energy, with Bowie himself becoming the hero. Lots of food for thought here related to my ongoing work. Thank you.

Jennifer S. Clark

Thanks, Jacquelyn. You’re absolutely right to point out how central Cohen’s persona is in generating pleasures in the show(s). Along with the fracturing effect of his cynicism, Cohen also seems equally adept and willing to support genuine fandom (something your April 29 post certainly gestures to).

In somewhat related fashion, I’m also interested in Cohen’s building of his own “petite celebrity” (a term from Robin Johnson’s work and one that Diane Negra and Maria Pramaggiore apply to the Kardashians). I wonder how we might define his celebrity, particularly since he is a relatively minor celebrity, a seeming fan and critic, and a producer? (This last element suggests he is slightly different from the genuine petite celebrity—he actually does produce things.) What work does his particular perform in the realm of the aftershow, do you think?

Leanne Weston

Thanks for your comment, Aaron.

I think the recontextualisation here is something of a unique case, which is what lead me to writing about it in the first instance. On one level, I do think the audience needs to be aware of it, that’s part of where its effectiveness and affectiveness originates. However, by the same token, the potency of subverting the lyrics of a song that’s been generally considered to be romantic lends it a power that’s quite separate from the spectre of Karen - for lack of a better phrase - that lends the recontextualisation a different meaning for those younger audiences unaware of the song’s lineage.

I agree that not knowing is part of the pleasure, and indeed, the strangeness of Thuston Moore’s vocals certainly adds to the haunting effect. In regards to thinking about the re-encountering of songs through recontextualisation like this, I was indeed thinking about the relationship between familiarity and strangeness. I hadn’t considered the effect of the lack of ability to identify - because I grew up in a household aware of both The Carpenters music and this Sonic Youth cover - so that really intrigues me. I think that could certainly be considered as another form of haunting, and when framed against in the context of globalised cinemagoing and marketing that takes on even greater resonance.

Aaron Dickinson Sachs

Leanne-

Great example of a doubly recontextualized pop song. Good opening to the week.

You are certainly right that the cover by Sonic Youth haunts the images we see in the trailer, however I’m not sure it’s just the ghost of Karen Carpenter that does the haunting. Do you think the audience needs to be aware of this recontextualization—that this is an oldie that’s been covered—to feel the haunting effect of the song in the trailer? How can this recontextualization haunt without that knowledge? My sense of horror films is that the audience tends to be on the younger side and more male than female (a quick google search seems to support this, and adds that it’s also working class). Given that this is a French film (as you note at the end, another set of recontextualizations as it’s globalized) my assumptions may be wrong in this particular case, as the audience demographics there might be different. Nevertheless, it seems like much of the pleasure of recontextualized pop songs, and in this case, the audience may not be fully aware of the substance of that recontextualization. Perhaps that adds to the haunting effect here, as that audience is made uncomfortable in finding a strange familiarity to the song that cannot quite be placed. Is this the re-encountering you reference at the end? A familiarity that just eludes our ability to identify and thus haunts us a bit more?

Thanks for the post!

Jennifer S. Clark

Along with the need (perhaps even an ethical one?) to explore the tensions of the producer’s needs and those of talent in reality television, your post identifies Lisa Vanderpump as a specific figure in the Bravo TV landscape. This “pot-stirring” persona is a great entry point to consider the complexity with which reality television generates value. As you’ve demonstrated, this plays out in her need to generate exciting program content as a producer. Bravo (and Vanderpump herself?) also profits from this persona across multiple venues and contexts. For instance, Vanderpump enacts it as a character on Real Housewives and as a “real” person on aftershows—all of which seems to beget mutually reinforcing and ever-expanding content with a single (but flexible) persona.

Rocky trains Creed from hospital bed
Glen Donnar

Thanks Rebecca, so much to think about in your response. The film, Donnie and even Rocky (if we think of the cancer as a violence of sorts) certainly find ‘regeneration through violence., as you note. But perhaps the dominant aspect of Stallone’s star image and career has been a tenacious unwillingness to give in or admit defeat, even to the realities of aging and aging action stardom. Yet his stardom has been, more than extended, truly revived by this film and it required that he, first, give up control and, second, acknowledge the vagaries of age and mortality.

I think the shorts represent the three parents Donnie has. They are either commissioned (or altered) by his adoptive mother and include the father he never met and the mother we never meet. They represent the names (and people) that have made him and the names he has to earn and own (and I think he has to also learn to be proud to be a Johnson also, rather than use it to mask his father’s name).

And finally, I love your points about Stallone/Rocky’s whiteness, including how it may shift over time. Your observation on the continued currency of those transgressive, desperate Italian-American iconic characters is compelling, although Coogler’s declared love for the Rocky franchise also productively extends this point. And ‘white, with bite’ (and fight) is definitely a term you should expand on in future!

Rocky trains Creed from hospital bed
Glen Donnar

The absence of Rocky’s son, and the pain evident in Rocky’s unsuccessful attempt to make light/positive of it, suggests that the older man’s decision to work with Donnie is motivated by two levels of guilt: one as Apollo’s trainer and one as a failed father (perhaps necessarily so, given the weight his fame would have represented for his son).